For Metamorphosis, Magenta's fourth release, the band find themselves on The Lasers Edge for North America, a good place to be considering how many quality groups reside on Ken Golden's roster these days. This latest CD sees the UK band, comprised of multi-instrumentalist Rob Reed, singer Christina Booth, guitarist Chris Fry, drummer Tim Robinson, and a host of guest musicians on strings, pipes, and backing vocals, tackling some darker lyrical themes, and musically the scope mixes Celtic flavors with symphonic prog and hard rock. The album is centered around two 20+ minute tracks, the epics "The Ballad of Samuel Layne" and "Metamorphosis", both excellent numbers that hit on all the 70's elements we all know and love, but there's a modern air to these pieces, thanks for the vocals of Christina and the use of violins, cellos, pipes, and other assorted instruments, that add a charming, folky, Celtic flavor amidst some of the more proggy and heavy rock bombast. In between these behemoth pieces, you have the gorgeous "Prekestolen", a short little ditty that harks back to classic Renaissance, Booth's beautiful vocals floating over a bed of keys and Uilleann Pipes, while "Blind Faith" is more of a straightforward pop-rock piece with some folk,Celtic, prog, and hard rock leanings.
The two gargantuan epics that really make up the bulk of this CD is what ultimately will delight progressive rock fans. Fry's tasty Steve Howe-inspired guitar riffs and leads mesh perfectly with Reed's layers of vintage sounding keyboards on the title track, which also sees Robinson laying down plenty of tricky drum fills. Some of the arrangements seem to pay homage to bands such as Yes and Marillion, which is not necessarily a bad thing for fans of the classic material these two legendary acts have recorded. This icing on the cake though is always the enchanting vocal delivery of Christina Booth, who really seems to cement her reputation on this CD as one of the best female vocalists in all of progressive rock.
Through it all, Metamorphosis is accessible, yet complex, melodic, but at times dissonant, making it a CD that has a little something for everyone. Filled with great vocals and expert instrumentation, this latest from Magenta should be the one that finally puts them at the forefront of the modern progressive rock scene.
1) The Ballad of Samuel Layne (20:17)
2) Prekestolen (3:43)
3) Metamorphosis (23:15)
4) Blind Faith (6:01)